Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake


Are you looking for a new symbol of autumn? Well, even if you're not, you may have found one. I have known people who still woke up at night, thinking of this cake, months after their first and only slice. I've known others who began to get anxious before the cake was even gone from the house, wondering when they would get to have more of it. It's that good.

Who knew pumpkin and chocolate could be so good together? I'd have expected those flavors to clash terribly, but the blend of flavors just seem to sing. This is one of those recipes that will become a good friend. It's very moist, with a creamy caramel icing that is the perfect finishing touch. It's easy to make and freezes very well - but you'd better hide it in the freezer if you want to keep it for very long.

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch Bundt pan.
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat together 3/4 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, applesauce, and eggs. Mix in 1/2 cup heavy cream and pumpkin. Stir into the flour mixture just until blended. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  2. Bake 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan over a wire rack. Invert cake onto a serving plate.
  3. Place the brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/3 cup heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring to blend until smooth. Cook until sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. Let cool about ten minutes. Whisk in the confectioner's sugar, and drizzle over the cake immediately.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Means Apple Dumplings


It's entirely the fault of the apple vendor at the famer's market.

I know it's too early to make apple dumplings. I know it's not even autumn yet, officially. I usually hold off until October to make them, when they are the perfect way to celebrate the glories of autumn.

But yesterday, Ringhausen Orchards had a display of freshly-squeezed apple cider. I looked at those bottles and I saw that warm, spicy cider bathing a pan of glistening apple dumplings, golden and heavenly in their aroma, and one of those bottles came home with me.

This recipe is the result of years of tweaking. The big epiphany came when I was trying to think of a way to make them without adding sugar. Every recipe I'd ever seen called for them to be basted, while baking, in a sugar-water syrup, but I'm sure you'll agree with me that hot spiced cider is simply THE way to do it. It's really a fairly simple recipe; I make my own pastry, but prepared pie crust (a double thickness) is fine here. You can use just as much sugar and spice as you like; I like them not too sweet and a little extra spicy.

The matter of accompaniments depends entirely on the occasion, the time of day, and what you're in the mood for. Ice cream--vanilla, caramel, or butter pecan-- is good, as is heavy cream, whipped or not. I love adding a little of the thick yellow cream at the top of the wonderful unhomogenized milk I buy from Greenwood Farms in Rolla, MO. But I think my favorite way to eat apple dumplings is with a wedge of cheese. Usually I use a sharp, good cheddar, but this time I had a chunk of Country Connection Applewood-Smoked Gouda, and it was perfect. If I use cheese, I can tell myself it's a completely balanced diet!

However you want them, do make these apple dumplings. Nobody should ever experience autumn without them.



APPLE DUMPLINGS

Pastry for a 2-crust pie, homemade or prepared
4 small apples - 2-3" in diameter - Granny Smith or other tart baking apples
2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1/2 cup granulated sugar, approximately
8 tsp. brown sugar, approximately
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat cider with sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg over medium-high heat. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out pastry into about a 10" square; cut into fourths. Place one peeled, cored apple on each square. If desired, fill with brown sugar, adding more or less as you prefer. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring the four corners up over each apple, pressing firmly around the apple to seal it, pressing together any holes in the pastry. Beauty isn't important here, just keeping the crust sealed around the apples.

Place the apples in a baking dish about 8 x 10". Pour the hot spiced cider slowly over the apples, then spoon it over each one to begin to glaze them. Bake about one hour, basting the apples with cider from the pan every ten minutes.

Just about the time you can't stand the seductive aroma any more, they'll be golden-brown and glistening; remove from oven and allow to cool as long as you can stand to. Serve warm with ice cream, whipping cream, or a wedge of good cheese.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

In an article on December 4, 2004, The Boston Globe stated: "For decades, any decent downtown shopping trip ended at Jordan Marsh, where the promise of a sugar-crusted blueberry muffin could make annoying children angelic." Now that the famous department store and its revered bakery have receded into history, the recipe for those muffins has escaped and circulated. Let me tell you, they live up to their reputation. In my family, no Sunday morning is complete without them. Try the recipe for yourself:
JORDAN MARSH BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups blueberries; preferably fresh, but frozen ones will work
Coarse sugar like turbinado for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-cup standard muffin pan with cupcake papers, then spray with Pam or Baker's Joy.

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt until well-blended; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar till fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating until fluffy after each. Beat in vanilla. Turn mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat one minute at low speed (this allows these very tender muffins to develop enough gluten to keep them from falling apart when taken from the pan). Fold in blueberries.

Fill muffin cups evenly, and sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, till golden brown. Remove from oven; let stand in pan about 5-10 minutes. If necessary, loosen muffins by running a knife around each one, carefully, then remove them from the pan. Enjoy!

A loving thank-you to my friends June, who first gave me this recipe, and Heather, who inspired me by mentioning blueberry muffins this morning!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Brownies

Is it raspberry season yet? I've been waiting so patiently!

Aren't raspberries beautiful? That perfect color, that soft downy feel, that explode-the-brain flavor--and the way it wakes up everything it lends its flavor to - is there any wonder I wait longingly for fresh raspberry season every year?

Fortunately, there are recipes like this that make the wait not so long. You can use frozen berries in this just as well as fresh.


WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY SWIRL BROWNIES

1 cup sweetened frozen raspberries, defrosted and drained, or fresh raspberries mixed with 2 teaspoons sugar
9 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 175°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan.

2. Use the back of a spoon to press the sweetened raspberries through a strainer to remove the seeds. Measure 1/4 cup strained purée into a small bowl. Set the purée aside and save any additional for another use.

3. Place the white chocolate in a nonreactive ovenproof container and melt it in the oven about 12 minutes. As soon as it is melted, remove it from the oven and stir it smooth. Set aside to cool. Increase the oven to 325°F.

4. Stir the flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

5. Put the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and add the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract, blending until the eggs are incorporated. You will see pieces of butter. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl once during this time. Beat in the melted white chocolate. Mix in the flour mixture just until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth.

6. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Drizzle the 1/4 cup raspberry purée over the top. Draw a thin metal spatula gently through the purée to swirl it with the white chocolate batter until the top is marbleized.

7. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack about 1 hour. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 12 to 16 pieces.

These are beautiful and elegant--but they tend to disappear rapidly. You might want to make a double batch.